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I’ve been a user of Apple’s Server OS’s since the early days of AppleShare IP (Pre OS X). Of course once Mac OS X was out and solid I migrated my AppleShare IP server to Mac OS X Server. Mac OS X Server was always a separate OS purchase and usually a separate install. I have a Mac Mini Server at home that is still running Mac OS X Server 10.6.8. As Apple moved away from their Server business (ie. dropping XServe products) Mac OS X Server also seemed to offer less and less features. Since my current server did absolutely everything I needed I never saw a reason to go through an upgrade process to 10.7 or 10.8. I will probably keep that Mac on OS X Server 10.6 until it dies. While the home server is working fine, I recently decided to bite the bullet and install a Mac server at my photography studio. I bought a regular Mac Mini with the 256GB SSD drive. I upgraded the RAM to 16GB from Other World Computing. I also added the New Drobo 5D via Thunderbolt and an mSATA card for faster reads. The Drobo 5D will serve as the main storage for all my photos and other files on this server. I already had an old 19″ Samsung LED display that I wasn’t using and an Apple Keyboard from a previous system. The only thing I needed was a cheap mouse. I bought one from Amazon. I didn’t need this setup to look pretty since it’s going in a closet.

This system rocks!

Mountain Lion Server is So Easy

OSXServer

Next it was time to install Mountain Lion Sever. Now keep in mind that I haven’t done a Mac OS X Server install in years! I couldn’t believe how easy the process is now compared to what it was back then. Like Mac OS X, you now buy OS X Server (for a mere $20) via the Mac App Store. Once it downloads you launch it as an App in you Applications folder. From there you configure which ever services you need. For me my initial services were File Sharing (AFP) and DNS. At some point I may turn on the webserver and FTP access, but right now I just don’t need them. I’ll probably also setup my FileMaker Databases on this system to access them remotely. By the way, before this new setup I was using a Drobo FS (basically a NAS) to share files on my network. While Drobo did come out with a much faster Drobo 5N, I wanted to be able to run other Applications and decided to go with a Mac Server instead of just another NAS. My Drobo 5D has 5 3TB drives in it and I share it via OS X Server. I also took this opportunity to buy a new TrendNet 24 port “green” Switch to consolidate all my wired network connections to one switch. That also made a noticeable difference in speed with my exiting Drobo FS. Apparently I had a bottleneck somewhere in the 3 smaller switches I was using prior to the new one.

Why Drobo? Drobo certainly has had its share of both hardware issues and PR problems and several people I know have sworn off Drobo and moved on to other solutions. For the many years I’ve used Drobo (I had 4 of them before adding the new 5D) I’ve yet to have any significant issues. So I’m not quite ready to throw away my investment and buy all new gear based on the experiences of others. With that said, I don’t trust ANY hardware solution by ANY company to be perfect failure proof. With that said I have multiple backups of my data both on site and offsite via crashplan.com. If all my Drobos failed right now today and the data was unrecoverable (not likely, but still…) I’d be aggravated, but I wouldn’t have lost a single file that I couldn’t get back. On the positive side Drobo has gone through great lengths to make their products better and more stable. This new “5” series has several improvements to not only make them faster, but more reliable. For one they now have built-in battery backups so that if data was in the middle of a transfer and the power dies, the battery would keep the internal drive going until the transfer was safely completed. Lastly I still use Drobo for the reasons I first started using Drobo. You can put any capacity hard drives in the system you want and they don’t have to be the same capacity. You can replace a smaller drive with a bigger drive when ever you want without having reformat or even reboot. If a single drive fails your data is protected.

TWP-MacMini_Server

Now Back To Mac OS X Server

I’m happy that I finally broke down and setup this new server. The speed is incredible. I’m also able to connect to it remotely via VPN, AFP or Screen Sharing. Since it’s a Mac I can also run apps on it and get more use out of it than a simple NAS.
iTunes

 

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  • Paul

    Terrie, Is using the server a way to share photos in iPhoto across two different computers?

    • Yes as long as you’re not trying to access them from both computers at the same time.

      • Paul

        Can you direct me to any documentation on how this would be done?
        I would also like to share an iTunes library and movies.
        thanks
        Paul

  • Terry,
    As a long-time and happy Drobo user, I’m in your camp! Also, I’ve always wanted to try the server and you have encouraged me to give it a try…have a older Mac Mini in the garage and a NEW Drobo 5D I’ve yet to put to use! (Uh, oh…guess I’ll need a new Mac Mini to get the new port. 🙂 ) Oh, I’m also using Crash Plan.
    Bye R@y

  • Neal Lippman

    Can you share with us what you are using for your onsite backup of your Drobo?

    • For onsite backups I typically use single drive external drives that are larger than the current amount of data I’m using. So let’s say my Drobo has 15TBs of drives in it. I may only be using 3TB’s of that at the moment. Therefore, I use a 4TB external and SuperDuper! to do a nightly backup. Also I use a DroboPro at home as well as the FS at work to do Time Machine backups of the other Drobos and Macs.

  • Ryan Christensen

    Drobos have always had a built in battery. I have three 2nd Gen. Drobos and they have a built in battery as well. The new 5 series Drobos have a much larger battery though as the older smaller batteries would sometimes run out out of power before writing out all data.

  • pete nevins

    Terry, So glad you have commented on ML Server. Everytime I have entertained a thought to go this route- even the good folks at the local Apple store do not see the practicality, hence here I am! As far as setting it up for your business (and home) is this something a non-technical person can do? I am also evaluating File Maker Pro Server- but completely lost on how to install it on the server and use it with File Maker Go. If you could steer me towards some- self help/support that would be great. Also-any plans for a program/session at the MacGroup? As always, appreciate your help and willingness to share. Pete

  • Great insight to the new server. What service do you use for DNS? And what “other applications” could you potentially run from a server? Thx, Nick.

    • Thanks Nick, I use OpenDNS for DNS and I would run FileMaker Pro and iTunes to name a couple of applications.

      • pete nevins

        Terry- Did you consider the fusion drive option in your setup?
        Kind of torn between SSD v. fusion.

        • I did consider it. However, I wanted to go all SSD since I would not be using the internal drive for storage. I figured the SSD would be more reliable less prone to failure which means my server would stay up longer.

          • Pete

            Makes sense – a lot of it! I’ll be using the mini as primary machine so storage is an issue -but with all the choices shouldn’t be a problem. OWC’s data doubler is another option- and with SSD as norm the best choice. Thanks so much again.

  • Bill

    why is Apple iCloud run on Dell, HP and Windows Azure if Mountain Lion Server is so good

  • Pingback: Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion Server is so easy « Dr Bob Tech Blog()

  • Christi

    You state: “While Drobo did come out with a much faster Drobo 5N, I wanted to be able to run other Applications and decided to go with a Mac Server instead of just another NAS. My Drobo 5D has 5 3TB drives in it and I share it via OS X Server.”

    I’m a bit confused by the above. Will you please clarify a few things?

    1. Are you planning to run applications off of the Drobo 5D or off of the Mac Server that resides on your Mac Mini? I’m curious why this same setup could not work with the Drobo 5N (which I recently bought).

    2. In the comments you mentioned, “…I would run FileMaker Pro and iTunes to name a couple of applications.” What are the advantages of running the applications from the Mac Mini (or Drobo 5D) versus just pointing iTunes (on your main Mac) to access the library that would reside on the Drobo (I presume)? As to the Filemaker Pro option, is this a solution that would work better than actually putting Filemaker Pro Server on the Mac Mini? Just trying to understand the advantages of having some applications on the Mac Mini versus your main Mac. It is mainly to free up space on your main Mac’s hard drive?

    Thanks for your very helpful article. I’m wondering now if I made a mistake in buying the 5N over the 5D.

    • You didn’t make a mistake as long as the 5N has the apps you need. I run Apps such as FileMaker Pro/Server that aren’t available for the 5N. I serve a couple of databases that I can access remotely. The Mac mini is dedicated to be my server and therefore is up/running 24/7 and accessible both internally and externally when I travel. iTunes running on the Mac mini means that I can serve up all my music, movies, etc. to any of my Apple TV’s, Macs or iOS devices. The 5D simply becomes fast reliable storage for the Mac mini/Server.

      • Christi

        A few more questions:

        1. The only apps that I see on Drobo’s website are Copy and soon-arriving Plex and both apparently work on the 5N (and 5D I presume). Are these the types of apps you are referring to?

        2. You then state “I run Apps such as FileMaker Pro/Server that aren’t available for the 5N.” Aren’t you running FM Pro/Server off of your MacMini and not your 5D? I’m not following why this same scenario couldn’t work with a 5N if you are only using the 5D as reliable storage. Couldn’t the 5N also be reliable storage for running FM Pro/Server off of a MacMini?

        Perhaps I’m just not getting the limitations of the 5N as it would relate to FM. Will you post me a link to what you are referring to so I can research it further? Thanks.

        • 1. Yes those are the types of Apps I’m referring to.
          2. The point was either a 5N or a computer as a server. If I had just gone with a 5N then I would lose the ability to serve the Apps I need to serve without dedication a computer to do those tasks. If I’m going to dedicate a computer, then a 5N no longer makes sense as it’s a slower solution than a directly connected (via Thunderbolt) 5D.

          So the point I think you’re missing is a Drobo 5N alone would not have allowed me to do everything I need to do and If I’m going to have to use a computer, then I might as well go with something that will be directly connected for the speed.

          • Christi

            Okay, that’s definitely making sense now. I appreciate the feedback!

  • Christi,

    I understand your confusion, as the term DroboApps and Apps have been mixed together.

    All Drobos can be used as a repository for your applications running on the Mac. I could store my photos, videos, databases, or office content on my Drobo and then access them with an application on my computer (Lightroom/PhotoShop/FM Pro/etc).

    Drobo recently launched DroboApps which run natively w/in the Drobo. If I am our of town with my Macbook adding files to my Copy.com account, the Copy App running natively on my Drobo at home can synchronize those changes. No host computer needed.

    When selecting a 5D vs 5N there are two things to consider. The throughput of the 5N is limited to the speed of the gbit network. While this is still plenty of for most applications, if I wanted to edit HD video I would opt for the 5D as the Thunderbolt connection provides 3x the throughput. Second, some applications don’t support working from a network share where all applications support working from a directly connected disk.

    • Christi

      Thanks Matt. Okay, so I understand the Apps part fine and that Copy App does sound useful perhaps down the line if I start traveling more.

      In my current situation I have multiple Macs at home (older/dying iMac and a MBP retina). Ideally, I am looking for a backup solution that will hold bootable backups of each computer as well as host my iTunes and limited movie/EyeTV library. I chose the 5N because of the multiple Mac scenario and because my older iMac doesn’t have Thunderbolt. However, now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have gotten the 5D for the speed feature and just share it out to my network. Since the computer that was going to stay at home was my older iMac with no Thunderbolt is now dying, I will have to replace it which led to my interest in this blog post. If I replace my iMac with a MacMini and attach a Drobo 5D, I’d be in a much better situation than I am with the 5N, correct? Especially since I’m not even sure my home network can fully handle gbit network (I just found out portions of my cabling is using CAT5 so I think I’m screwed until I can get that replaced with CAT6).

      Is that the correct assessment of my situation? If I called Drobo today, would they have advised me to go with a 5D over a 5N?

      • I would recommend the 5N for your configuration. Each host can get its own dedicated Time Machine share (with a quota to limit it from growing out of control) as well as a simple way to share your media between computers.

        While the 5N is limited to about 100MB/sec, that’s still a significant amount of BW. More than enough to stream multiple HD movies, music, and run TM backups simultaneously.

        On a side note, CAT5 should do full gbit speeds no problem as long as you aren’t taking all the way out to the 100 meter spec. In a home they are such short runs of cable it should work great.

  • john harper

    My data base ( http://www.spectra.com/asset-disposition/ ) works simple as well. Very friendly indeed.

  • Jake Allen

    I totally agree. It’s friendly to any servers ( patchvantage.com ) and its interface is just plain and simple.